Re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in Haiti

Bay Roberts phys­io­ther­a­pist trav­els with Team Bro­ken Earth


Flip­ping through the pages of a beige photo al­bum from her re­cent trip to Haiti as a part of Team Bro­ken Earth, Bay Roberts phys­io­ther­a­pist Emily Dawe stops to point out a par­tic­u­lar pic­ture.

It is a pic­ture of Dawe, and a smil­ing Haitian boy. He was just re-learn­ing to walk and the young woman was help­ing with the process.

The boy’s smile was a mile wide as he moved his legs for what must’ve felt like the first time. But, if you no­tice the other pic­tures in the al­bum, there is a sim­i­lar­ity.

Smiles. A lot of them, de­spite hor­rific cir­cum­stances.

The peo­ple of Port-au-Prince and the rest of Haiti are known for their re­silience and pain tol­er­ance. It’s some­thing that struck Dawe dur­ing her week­long stay in the coun­try.

“It’s a good thing,” she said. “The amount of pain they could tol­er­ate and be OK with was in­cred­i­ble. Peo­ple would come in with an in­jury that you would ex­pect them to be passed out from.”

Per­haps the Haitian peo­ple have an oth­er­worldly will to sur­vive, but Dawe wasn’t sure. There are sure to be a num­ber of fac­tors that go into their height­ened pain tol­er­ance, chief amongst those a will to sur­vive a 7.0 mag­ni­tude earth­quake and the en­su­ing chaos.

“Even post-op­er­a­tion pa­tients here that would re­quire a strong pain killer, they would just get up and go,” said Dawe.

Dawe was mak­ing her first trip with Bro­ken Earth. Their

web­site de­scribes them as “vol­un­teer task force com­posed of physi­cians, nurses, and phys­io­ther­a­pists from across Canada com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing and im­prov­ing health­care in Haiti.”

They work with health pro­fes­sion­als on the ground in hopes of de­liv­er­ing the right care and help­ing to de­velop the best prac­tices.

Get­ting started

Dawe was in Haiti from March 21-28. Work­ing ev­ery day of the week, she hit the ground run­ning from the start, as­sist­ing the phys­io­ther­a­pist where she could and per­form­ing other du­ties as they arose.

“I spent a lot of my time in the pe­di­atric unit and the spinal cord unit,” said Dawe. “Those were the places I could have the most in­ter­ven­tion and ef­fect. I did what­ever I thought they needed.”

From the mo­ment she set foot at the hos­pi­tal, it was non-stop from sun up to sun down.

“Re­ally, you’re run­ning on adren­a­line for the first three days,” said Dawe. “My­self and the ra­di­ol­o­gist were pretty much the only ones who didn’t have shifts. So, I would get up any­where be­tween six and seven in the morn­ing, get ready and head to the units. The physio would come in around nine, so I’d have two hours of work done be­fore he got in.

“Then we’d usu­ally work the un­til 3:30 or 4. Then, I would clew up any­thing else Bro­ken Earth wise.”

Fam­i­lies help­ing

One thing Dawe said that will stick with her is the amount of in­volve­ment fam­i­lies have when their loved one is at the hos­pi­tal. She de­scribed fam­ily mem­bers who chip in wher­ever they can to help nurses, doc­tors and phys­io­ther­a­pists.

“The fam­i­lies took to­tal con­trol of their wash­ing, dress­ing, you know,” she said. “There are no cafe­te­rias in the hos­pi­tal, so the fam­i­lies brought in all of their meals to them. They took com­plete care of them.

“Even for me try­ing to get some­one mov­ing and get them out of bed, the fam­i­lies would step in.”

The trip had such an ef­fect on her that Dawe said she would love to make an­other trip to Haiti or even Nepal should the op­por­tu­nity arise. She called the work re­ward­ing and it re­minded her of why she chose the ca­reer path she did.

“This is why I wanted to be­come a physio. To do this sort of thing,” she said. “It re­minds you of why you started.”


Bay Roberts phys­io­ther­a­pist Emily Dawe (right) re­cently spent a week in Haiti as a part of Team Bro­ken Earth.

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